Techniques

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If a pattern features rib at a cuff or a welt, chances are it’s to give elasticity and snugness. It would be a pity to take away some of that stretchiness when you cast off, so a very common instruction is to “cast off in pattern”.

We get asked a lot at the counter what that phrase means, so here’s the details. It follows on very nicely from our last technique post on working stitches as they appear, too, because it really just combines that trick with a straightforward cast off.

Just as with a standard cast off, you start by working two stitches. The first two stitches in our row are bumps, so they get purled.

Again just as with a standard cast off, you cast off the first stitch by leapfrogging it over the second one, and the picture shows that happening.

At this point, you’ve purled your stitches and then cast them off. Looking at the next stitch, it needs to be knitted in order to keep the rib pattern:

So the next step is to move the yarn to the back of the work between the needles (because you’re going from purl to knit) and knit the next stitch:

Then pass the previous stitch over the one you’ve just knitted:

And that’s it! If a stitch needs to be knitted to keep the rib sequence, then knit it, and if it needs to be purled, purl it, and leapfrog the older stitch over the newer in the usual way as you cast off.

And finally, a couple of pictures to show the effect. The righthand portion of the stitches in our sample was cast off in pattern, and the lefthand section was cast off by knitting only without purling. It’s very easy to see where the change was made – the knitted edge has nothing to do with the rib below it and splays out, but the cast-off-in-pattern section ripples pleasingly with the rib.

It’s when the cast off is stretched (as it will be when you wear the garment) that the difference is really noticeable. The cast-off-in-pattern section stretches as much as the ribbing below it, avoiding that uncomfortable overtight edge.

So the welt of your topdown cardigan can be as supple as the work above it. It’ll wear better too, because the edge isn’t strained. No more top-down hats with forehead-hurting edges, either!

As they appear

“Work stitches as they appear” is an instruction that we get asked about at the counter a lot, so here’s a picture tutorial to help.

The key to this (and to much else in knitting) is the fact that knit and purl are just mirror images of each other. When you’re shown a stitch in isolation, you can’t tell whether it was knitted or purled on the previous round or row. This’ll illustrate: take a look at the picture at the top of this post. The first three stitches on the left hand needle have their smooth faces facing us. Now we’ll turn the work around:

This is the back of the same three stitches, and their bumpy sides are facing us. Smooth on one side, bumpy on the other. Were they knitted or purled?

Here’s two more pictures. That first stitch on the left hand needle has its bumpy side facing us…

…but when the work is turned around, there’s the familiar smooth V-shaped face (the needle it’s on is in the right hand of the knitter):

Bumpy one side, smooth on the other – knitted or purled?

When a pattern tells you to “work stitches as they appear”, it’s telling you to put a bump above a bump and a smooth face on top of a smooth face. That’s all: look at the row below and keep the sequence going. In practice, this means if you want a bump facing you, purl the stitch like this:

If you want a smooth face facing you, knit the stitch.

It’s as simple as that. The brilliant thing about this reversability of knitting is that you don’t need to know what you did on the row before. You can just look at the stitch in front of you, and that tells you what to do. It’s called “reading your knitting”, and it makes everything simpler! Don’t you just love the simple things?

We often get asked if there’s a clever way of knowing when you’re halfway through your yarn. It turns out that there’s a couple of ways, so we thought it would be useful to share them with you here.

First of all, when might you need to know such a thing? If you’re making toe-up socks and you know the mid point of your yarn, then you can just work till you approach that point and cast off. Result: matching socks with no leftovers!

Making a stunning scarf like Baktus or any of its lovely crochet variants is simple if you know the midpoint of your skein. The Heart to Heart Beaded Scarf in the picture above (and blogged about here) is another example: start at one side, increase until you’re half way through, then start to decrease. You can’t run out of yarn this way!

There’s two ways of finding out your midpoint. One takes longer than the other, but you don’t need any special equipment. The other just needs a digital scale and takes only as long as winding the yarn.

For the first method, take the two ends of your yarn, hold them together, and starting winding with the yarn held double. When you can’t wind any more, you’ll come to a loop right in the middle. That’s your mid point. Snip right there, and then start winding each end into its own ball (this is best done slowly, possibly in front of some good TV – wind a bit on one ball, wind a bit on the other to avoid tangling). This method has the advantage of finding the exact centre of the length.

The second method needs a digital scale. First of all, wind your yarn into a ball and weigh it. Now take one of the ends and start winding a new ball with it, leaving the first ball on the scales as it gets lighter. Keep an eye on the number as it goes down, and stop when you reach 50% of the original weight. That’s halfway. Snip the yarn there if you want two separate balls, or just tie a slip knot in the yarn and keep winding if you want just one ball.

The second method can easily give you thirds or quarters too. It works equally well whether you’re winding by hand or with a yarn winder

Welcome to the next technique post for our summer HAP-Along! This is a trick that works in lots of other places too – picking up stitches is a common task and very straightforward.

The first thing to get out of the way is the terminology: there is, as far as anyone can tell, no difference between “pick up” and “pick up and knit”. Patterns use both expressions to mean exactly the same thing, and So whichever words are used, this procedure is what is meant.

Holding the work in your left hand and the needle in your right, poke the needle through the edge of the work where you want to make the new stitch, knitwise. “Knitwise” means that the needle is going from front to back, and from left to right, exactly like a knit stitch.

Since we’re using the loopy edge that you get from the yarn over increase, our needle is going through one of those loops, but if your edge is different, the path of the needle remains the same: front to back, and left to right.

Wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle…

… and pull the loop back to the front of the work.

Then simply repeat this procedure until you’ve amassed all the stitches you need, gaining new stitches one at a time. If you’re going round a corner, you’ll probably need to pick up a couple extra to mitre around the bend. And here’s our little garter stitch square with stitches picked neatly up from two sides, ready to go round the next corner and head for the other two sides:

It’s a nifty technique, and one that you’ll use for button bands and collars over and over again. Knitting a hap with a garter stitch centre is the easy way to start picking up stitches. If you’re picking up from stocking stitch or another stitch pattern, there’s a wee bit more to consider, but we’ll come back to that in another post.

Things are really hotting up over in the Ravelry HAP-Along thread, and we’ve got a tag for your Ravelry project pages: tagging with TIKHAPALONG will make it much easier to follow each other’s progress! See you over there!

There’s a lot of ways of increasing a stitch when you’re knitting. Different methods have different effects on the fabric you’re producing, and your choice depends on the results you want and on your own personal choice.

This post is about one way of increasing right at the very edge of a row when you’ll be picking up stitches from the edge later on. It’s a traditional Shetland technique and Gudrun Johnston uses it in her Hansel.

It involves making a yarn over right at the very start of the row, and it gives a set of little loops that are very easy to pick up from. What’s more, it gives a very elastic edging, which is what you want in a stretchy squishy hap shawl. You can see the edge it gives in the picture above: the triangle starts at the bottom right and grows with those loops on each edge. What’s more, it’s uninterrupted garter stitch right to the edge, with no increase line a few stitches in.

You work it right at the beginning of a row, before you knit the first stitch. Put the right hand needle behind the working yarn…

…and making sure that you have a strand of yarn crossing the right hand needle, put the tip into the first stitch of the row.

Wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle and work the stitch as usual.

The yarn over will make a loop of yarn around the needle to the right of that first knit stitch. That loop is your increase.

You want your edge to be nicely stretchy but not sloppy, so when you come to the end of the row and it’s time to work the yarn over that started the previous row, work its back leg:

And that’s it – a stretchy edge with a set of loops just begging to be picked up and knit as a border, as you can see in the very first picture. If you’re not going to pick up from it, though, then it’s probably not the best increase, and that loopy border wouldn’t be much fun to seam. It’s certainly not the only way of doing these increases – Jared Flood uses knit-front-and-back in his Tweed baby blanket. It’s fun to work, though, and you could substitue

Very soon, we’ll be blogging here about how to pick up stitches for the shawl border. But we don’t need to worry about that yet – knitting the centre will take a wee while!

Part of the fun of a KAL is finding out new ways of doing things. Our HapKAL means that we’re all hearing about different techniques, because there’s lots of different patterns being used. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll feature picture tutorials for several of the techniques involved, and today’s the first of these.

Hap patterns often have the centre made on the bias, starting with a very tiny number of stitches in one corner, increasing until the full width of the diagonal is reached, and then decreasing back down to the opposite corner. This gives a very elastic and stretchy fabric for snuggling into. And the smallest number you can start with is just one. So that’s what we’re going to show you here: how to cast on only stitch and increase from it.

The picture up above shows where to start: make a slip knot and pop it onto the left hand needle, and take up the other needle in your right hand, just as if you were going to knit.

Put the tip of the right hand needle into the single loop, again just like a knit stitch.

Wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle (again, just like a knit stitch):

Pull a new loop of yarn out of the stitch on the left hand needle (yes, just like when you’re half way through a knit stitch!). But then, don’t let the old stitch drop the left hand needle. You want to keep it on the needle because you’re not finished with it yet.

Move the tip of the right hand needle towards the back of the stitch on the left. You’ll see a little gap between the back leg of that stitch and the needle.

Poke the tip of your right hand needle into that gap…

…and wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle, pulling a new stitch out in the usual way.

And there you are – you’ve made two stitches from a cast on of just one. When you increase by just one stitch at the beginning of every row, you end up with a right-angled triangle, so your increase rate is bang on from the very first row.

The next thing is to work those increases on subsequent rows. There’s more than one way of doing that, and there’s advantages and disadvantages to all of them. You’ll find details of one of them, with yarn overs right at the beginning of the row, in our next blog post.

Of course, if you’ve got a technique question that we can help you with, leave a comment below and we’ll do out best to help!

Few things will annoy you more about a finished piece of knitting than a cast off that’s too tight. In almost all cases, you want an edge that stretches as much as the knitted fabric below it, and sometimes that doesn’t happen.

There’s a few ways of avoiding that irksome tight edge. We’ve talked about Elizabeth Zimmermann’s sewn bind off before, but that requires a yarn needle threaded with enough yarn to finish the cast off. If you’re working a long cast off (like for the Daybreak in the picture above), “enough yarn” is going to be a very long length indeed. It’ll get tangled and twisted and cause just as much annoyance. Even the cast off of a top-down baby jumper would need an unmanageable length of yarn.

Here’s a startlingly simple solution: use a larger needle to work the cast off. How much larger is up to you – try one size larger and see how you like the result. If you don’t, go bigger. And if you’re worried about your stitches being loose and straggly, then there’s a handy tip that Estonian lace knitters sometimes use: work the cast off with the yarn held double, so every stitch of the edge has a little more bulk. It gives a lovely firm edge!

And speaking of Daybreak, watch this space for some Knit-Along news next week…!

Weaving in ends is one of the final stages of a project, and despite our best efforts (splicing when adding a new ball, working seamlessly and so on), there’s always some to do.

The Garter Yoke Baby Cardi (a hugely popular and dotey free pattern on Ravelry) is a case in point. It’s a delight to work in sportweight yarn (this one’s in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino), made from the top down with the option of a neat i-cord edging. It’s quick and it’s easily customisable.

But there’s no denying it: that’s a lot of ends.

It’s a good idea to leave your ends long while you wash and block and snip them off only at the end. But then it’s easy to get confused about forget which ones you’ve woven in and which you haven’t, and you can easily end up peering crossly at your work trying to decide. So here’s a handy trick to speed things along: as you finish weaving in a strand, just tie a knot in it.

Then it’s easy to run your fingers down the length of any end and spot if you still need to deal with it. It’ll keep you a little further away from your wits’ end!

Buttonholed!

We get a lot of questions at the counter about the best way to make buttonholes. The answer, as usual, is “It depends” – on who you’re making the garment for, on the size of the button, on how wide your buttonband is. For a lot of purposes, the yarn-over buttonhole works a treat, so here’s a tutorial.

Every beginner knitter is familiar with the notion that if you put the yarn over the needle on one row and then knit the resultant loop on the next row, you end up with a hole. Like most so-called “mistakes”, this turns out to be very useful. You can make a buttonhole with it.

The first step, when you come to where you want your buttonhole to be, is simply to make a yarn over, by bringing the yarn to the front between the needles, and then backwards over the right hand needle. (And that’s all a yarn over is: just the action of putting the yarn round the right hand needle.)

The next step is to knit the next two stitches together, as shown in the picture: put the tip of your right hand needle through two stitches instead of just one, and knit them together.

And that’s it. You’ve just made a hole in your work with the yarn over, and you’ve compensated for that increase by decreasing a stitch immediately after by knitting two together.

And what’s more, you’ve just made the teeniest bit of lace. That’s all lace is: yarn overs and decreases paired with each other. And if you put a line of these holes in a row, you end up with a line of eyelets for tying ribbon through. Putting holes in your knitting on purpose is a very satisfying activity, and it all begins with a yarn over and a decrease!

We’ve talked about blocking techniques before, and about how magically it transforms your hunched and lumpy work into something smooth and beautifully professional, with practically no effort at all.

That neat and orderly finish is what you want for knitted and crocheted gifts, and since time is getting on and a lot of hats are being made for Christmas, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about how to block them.

The trouble with hats, put simply, is that they’re very rarely flat. You can’t pin just them out like a scarf or a shawl. But help’s at hand, and the picture below shows all you need.

After you’ve soaked your hat well and blotted out most of the moisture in a towel, take a moment to consider: is it flat, like a beret or a tam, or is it round like a beanie? If it’s flat, like this wonderful Neep Heid by Kate Davies, simply pop a plate inside it, one large enough to smooth out the knitting. Since our Neep Heid is adult-sized, we used a dinner plate, but smaller hats would need smaller plates. Let the hat dry, and slip the plate out.

If your hat is curved, like our own Thistle pattern, then you need the balloon. Soak your hat and blot it as before, and then blow up the balloon to the size you need (smaller for a child, larger for an adult. Crown it with the uniformly damp hat.

Wait for it to dry completely and remove the balloon (it can then find a deserving home!).

Ta da! Perfectly blocked hats, with even stitches, smooth fabric and impressed recipients. And another thing crossed off the To Do list!

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